On Tuesday, March 29, the University of Maine General Student Senate (GSS) gathered at Neville 100 for their weekly meeting where they recognized several clubs and sparked a debate on funding.
The meeting opened with the formal appointment of Connor Bray as Vice President of UMaine Student Government (UMSG) and President of GSS after being elected by the student body. Bray will assume this role starting next fall for the 2022-2023 academic year.
A representative of the Black Student Union (BSU) was present at the senate meeting as the club seeks recognition again as a college organization.
“We’re not just looking for a specific type of person to come,” the BSU vice president said. “Everyone is welcome, it’s just a place where people of color can feel safe, recognized, and talk about their struggles.”
The club is one of many groups that have been put on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the club is now trying to make its official return to campus.
“I remember BSU from my freshman year… Like many clubs and organizations, [COVID-19] really had an impact, so I’m very happy to see him back here for some preliminary recognition,” said UMSG President Zachary Wyles.
After a majority vote, BSU was approved for preliminary recognition. The club meets on Tuesdays at the Multicultural Center and welcomes anyone interested in making UMaine a more inclusive campus.
A representative from the Permaculture and Gardening Club was also present as the club sought final recognition.
“It’s a space to practice gardening and permaculture techniques,” said the club representative.
According to the club representative, the word permaculture is a play on “permanent agriculture,” and they are working on learning how to work better with the Earth.
They hold events at Terrell House, which is a university building that was converted into a space for students to practice and learn about permaculture in 2010.
“I think the Permaculture and Gardening Club is a great way to extend our green thumb and show our sustainability as a university and as a student body,” said Senator Ciro Falanga.
After a brief period of discussion, GSS approved the club’s application for final recognition.
Senator Falanga also pointed out in his report as President of the Residence Hall Association that the Spring Festival will take place on Sunday, April 10, from noon to 8 p.m. According to Falanga, there will be activities for campus residents to welcome the spring season.
Off-campus residents are also permitted to participate in all activities and events. The festival is held at the University Mall with activities and raffles all day. From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. there will also be ax throwing.
“It will be a fun day of spring festivals, so come join us,” Senator Falanga said.
The senate concluded its meeting with a request for funding from the Backcountry Squatters club.
Backcountry Squatters is an outdoor club for women and non-binary students whose mission is to create a space that represents these students and encourages them to get outdoors.
“We want to increase the availability of outdoor recreation for people who don’t necessarily have it naturally or don’t have access to resources on their own,” said Meave Merkle-Scotland, Vice President of Backcountry Squatters. .
One aspect of the funding request sparked widespread debate in the Senate, after Vice President of Financial Affairs Frank Kelly suggested removing funding for new climbing gear from the request.
“I think the Senate should be hesitant to fund the climbing gear aspect of the resolution, given that we have a pre-existing climbing club,” Kelly said.
According to Kelly, it is senate policy not to have clubs performing the same duties.
“Although the two clubs do different things, purchasing the same equipment for both organizations is not an effective use of student activity fees, in my view,” Kelly said.
Several senators have weighed in their opinions on this recommendation, some in favor of Kelly’s suggestion and others opposed.
“I think VP Kelly is right to be redundant with the line items, but I think the fact that the backcountry squatters are more specifically for women and non-binary people, we should treat it as a separate thing and look at it from that perspective,” Senator Falanga said.
Concerns have been raised about how clubs would go about sharing climbing gear and where the line is drawn when it comes to asking clubs to share gear with each other.
Lauri Sidelko, student government advisor, brought up the fact that they also need to figure out who is responsible for the maintenance of the equipment and the long-term safety of having multiple groups using the same equipment.
After a close vote, the senate approved the removal of the climbing gear and approved the rest of the funding request.
Speaker Wyles was pleased to see many passionate and engaged student senators in Tuesday’s meeting.
“Everyone pitched in and I love that, so I’m really proud of you for being involved in the process,” Wyles said.